For the past few days, a friend of mine and I visited Brooklyn, New York to visit a friend of his; who is currently living there as an intern. We did the usual touristy types of activities, such as visiting Coney Island and Governor’s island, while also checking out local eateries and the Hare Hare Krishna Temple. This wasn’t our first time visiting the Big Apple, as we visited Manhattan this past March. That time around was a lot more in line with what a tourist would do: time square, visiting the UN, the World Trade Center memorial, shopping at stores which catered to tourists (aka, items sold at much higher prices). Both times were greatly enjoyable and I can’t wait to return to the city and explore another borough.
Yet both times, I was reminded of the Dharmic teaching of samsara.
Essentially, Samsara teaches that life is a cycle of death and rebirth; one of pleasure and pain. Often times experienced at the same time.
It’s interesting the emotions and introspection that comes from seeing it first hand. We always logically know that there is suffering in the world, but it usually remains in the bak of the mind; it’s something that can safely be distanced from. One doesn’t have that luxury when seeing it face to face.
When visiting the city, this was up close and personal. Admist the bright lights, big crowds, and shopping centers, lies a reality that exists alongside. Seeing anger in the eyes and voices of many in the crowds as they tried to make their way through; many homeless trying to sleep on the sidewalk or asking for change form people who clearly had some to give away (me included); and a general feeling of emptiness when I noticed my own hypocrisy of being able to spend money on something completely material, but not give a couple of dollars to someone on the street. Sure, there are rationalizations which I made, but the feelings were still there.
Is there a way to escape this? Outside of attaining Moksha, not really. No matter where we go, there will be pleasure and pain; often times in the same place or experience. We can (and should) do what we can to help others, but Samsara will always be there. Suffering, joy, love, hatred, and the constant cycle therein will always exist. It’s a natural part of the world and cannot be something that we can avoid. No matter how much we wish to do so.
Of course I don’t wish to come across as nihilistic about the nature of existence (far from it actually), but this is just another part of the souls journey. Better get used to it if one doesn’t want to go insane.